The Government has signed off on an extra $10 million to keep the jobs of 26 safety officers in the Police commercial vehicle investigations unit after safety concerns about a proposal to scrap them.
The safety officers, mainly mechanics and engineers, check vehicles such as trucks, buses, mobile homes, and taxis to ensure they meet safety standards, as well as attending crashes involving commercial vehicles and assessing the vehicles involved.
Last month Police advised road transport groups they were proposing to scrap the 26 safety officers as part of wider cost-saving measures to stay within NZ Transport Agency's road policing 2015-2018 budget of $960 million.
The cuts were part of a restructure proposal for the "reallocation" of 111 road policing staff in Auckland, Wellington, Counties and Waitemata, mostly into other areas of the police to do a wider range of work.
After the Police Association and Road Transport Forum raised concerns about the proposal, last week Finance Minister Steven Joyce agreed to a request by Police Minister Paula Bennett and Transport Minister Simon Bridges for an extra $10 million to keep the safety officers in their jobs.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said he and the NZTA board had agreed to it because of the safety concerns aired.
"Road safety is a bottom line and it became apparent Police required more to fulfil what is necessary."
He said the extra funding was in addition to the $960 million allocation, but was still within the wider band estimated for road policing in the National Land Transport Fund.
The safety officers' jobs included roadside safety inspections, checking loads were secured, advising on the transport of dangerous goods and attending crashes involving commercial vehicles.
When he announced the proposal Superintendent Steve Greally, the National Manager of Road Policing, said the safety officers were not sworn staff and were largely specialist mechanics and engineers who had a more limited range of powers so could not easily be redeployed elsewhere in the police.
He said the sector and staff would be consulted before final decisions were made.
Last month Police Association head Chris Cahill said the proposal would leave nobody to police the safety of vehicles such as school buses and trucks, or to undertake assessments after crashes involving large commercial vehicles.
Road Transport Forum CEO Ken Shirley said it risked allowing operators to cut corners on safety to keep costs down while Road Transport Association general manager Dennis Robertson said it could mean more unsafe school buses and trucks on the road.
The NZ Transport Agency consults with Police when setting the Road Policing Programme every three years. The $960 million was six per cent more than the 2012-2015 budget of $890 million.